One of the most misunderstood teachings of the Church, and maybe one that is least reflected on, is the teaching on purgatory. To understand and embrace this teaching does not require deep, exhausting theological study. A short and simple explanation of its meaning should wash away the distortions that cause so many people to doubt or neglect it.
God’s Mercy does not overlook imperfections and sin, it removes them and repairs the damage… and we are called to participate in His Mercy. The Merciful Father welcomed home the Prodigal Son, his sins forgiven. This is usually seen in relation to our conversion, repentance and forgiveness received on earth in this life. But, we can also see elements that can point to purgatory. Consider the son’s anguished journey home, arising and traveling a great distance from that “far country”. Seen in the context of the next life, there is not necessarily an immediate admittance to the Beatific Vision. A painful journey, or cleansing, may still be in our future. The Father waits with open arms, but we must still travel to him. The son was forgiven from the moment He sought forgiveness, but the journey home was not yet complete.
“I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasure. During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there. The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:22-27).